Friday, July 18, 2014

Neriza Sarmiento Saito

ON THE ROAD TO: Winning a Tourist`S Heart Through Homecooked Gourment Dishes

July - August 2014

"The greatest sweetener of human life is friendship." 
-- Joseph Addison

he rainy season in June is a delight for many farmers in Japan and in the Philippines. An old saying goes that "One must sow before one can reap." The soil must be tilled, seeds have to sown before one can harvest.

I have always wanted to feature a dear friend who has been tilling and sowing all her life but never even has the time to harvest the fruits of her labor. She has declined several times to be featured in this column. But since her tour of duty is ending this year, I took the liberty to write this up.

I met Lorelei in the elevator of the
Department of Tourism, Osaka Office in Nishi-ku in the mid -80's. The DOT office had just transferred from their old office in Dojima during the time of Tourism Attache John Orola and PR Officer Jean Tabora. In March 1984, when the Japan- Philippines Friendship Society was organized, we had many chances to meet and got to know each other better. In one of our meetings at their office, I was so embarrassed when my two sumo boys broke one of their glass panels. At that time, the Tourism Attaché was Mr. Valentino Cabansag. Lorly assured me that there was nothing to worry about. In our succeeding meetings, she was always helpful and took care of my little baby, Charlie, while working on her typewriter so that I could join the KNTNK meeting. Little by little, I became acquainted with a woman who was destined to be my inspiration in life: Lorelei Dumpit Cruz. 

A presentation in one TV program said that in our own spiral of happiness, there are 3 things we need to attain:
1. You must have a job early in your life.
2. Find out more about your inner self. 
3. Meet a lot of people who can inspire you.
Lorly is a person who loves work! Early in life, she worked at the Department of Tourism and was assigned at DOT's travel tax booth. She was known to friends as a person who just loves to cook and share her dishes with as many people as possible. 

Coming from a big Dumpit family of 11 children with her being the 3rd, every mealtime is a feast. "Lagi na lang akong may dalang Tupperware ng mga pagkain galing sa bahay para sa mga office mates ko."

When a chance to work in Japan came, she was forced to leave her 3 young children Ritchie, Clarisse and John Paul in the Philippines so that she can support them after a breakdown in her own marriage. Determined and full of hope,  Lorly began a new chapter in her life. She missed her own kids but she could do nothing. Sometimes, she would cry at the sight of other children wishing she could also hug her own. 

Meanwhile, the Tourism Office in Nishi Ward became the center of meetings and activities to promote tourism. At those meetings, Lorly always cooked pancit or arroz caldo and lumpia. Some groups and schools started to invite us to demonstrate Filipino dishes. There was even a time when we demons-trated a full course menu at Creo Osaka. Word spread even to Manila's sister city, Takatsuki 
and Lorly's cooking became a permanent fixture at festivals. No matter how busy she was, she was there on time, with an amazing energy I can never imagine. The Takatsuki International Association started their yearly Friendship Tours to Manila in the late 80's usually with the city mayor and other officials. This year, Lorly accompanied some city officials in their courtesy call to Mayor Joseph Estrada. Aside from Mr. Orola and Mr. Cabansag, she has also worked with many tourism attaches like Ms. Hope Friedlander, Mr. Martin  Valera Jr. and Ms. Araceli Soriano. Former PAL manager in Osaka, Mr. Antonio Herrera and former Metrobank Manager in Osaka , Mr. Alfred Valencia always admired Lorly's cooking while they were here and said that feelings of loneliness and homesickness disappeared once they smelled Lorly's adobo and pinakbet. At that time, too, the DOT participated at the Midosuji parade, the Naniwa Festival and the Dotomburi events and Lorly always cooked for the participants. She didn't mind carrying the heavy pots just to make everyone happy. But cooking was not her job at all. She is the Administrative Officer with heavier responsibilities on her shoulders. When budget was tight and funding from the main office did not arrive, Lorly had to borrow funds from private sources or ask the owners of their building to allow them to pay later or call the Secretary of Tourism at that time to release the funds. That was how tough this lady is: resilient and staunch! When the tough times were over, they moved to a bigger office in Hommachi in 2005. By this time, Kyoko Kimura, a fresh graduate of the Osaka University joined the staff. Fluent in Tagalog and with a genuine love for anything Filipino, Kyoko became Lorly's constant companion in promoting the Philippines in various parts of Kansai and Western Japan: setting up booths at fairs, doing familiarization tours, organizing seminars, assisting Tourism Officials and Travel operators, or guiding tour groups to the Philippines. Students of Osaka University always get introductions to Philippine cuisine on their freshmen year and soon after they go on holidays to the Philippines or study there.  One of their most successful endeavors is the annual Philippine Food Fair at the Hilton Osaka and Nagoya and Fukuoka.

In 2013, DOT Osaka was featured in a television program hosted by comedians Katsumi and Sayuri and, as usual, food was the main theme. They also went to the Philippines to feature more attractions in Manila and Cebu in another program aired in January 2014.

Looking back through the years and all the seeds Lorly has sown, the fruits of her labor are visible. For Lorly, who has always shunned the limelight, and has remained humble always, who without fail is always the first to arrive at the Sunday mass, who will always listen to a friend's woes inspite of her own, who will be cooking and serving everyone even if it is her birthday, life is to serve. For her, the way to anyone’s heart is through something simple just sharing meals together, just like one big family. The Dumpit way is through their homecooked dishes. 
In this column, some of her close friends would like to share their messages : 

"Sometimes being a friend  means mastering the art of timing. There is a time for silence, a time to let go and allow people to hurt themselves into their own destiny. And a time to pick up the pieces when it's all over." ( Gloria Naylor ) 

Good luck and best wishes, Lorly! Lorly, if I have the power to turn back the hands of time, I will definitely reset it to the time when we first met. I cannot think of any word that can express my gratitude for all the things you have done for all of us. I will not say goodbye to you, but instead take care and till we meet again sometime, somewhere. 
- Nida and Jun Silva

Lors, you'll always be in my heart and  will never forget those  precious moments  with you.
- Ms. Valentine

Dearest Lorly,  it's your efficiency that my job is such bliss @ TIA, my grateful thanks for your support & friendship.
- Belinda Chow

My dear Ate Lorly,
thank you so much for always being there for us. Love you forever.
- Sally Yamamoto

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